(JTA) — A Mormon candidate for a Utah state House seat running against a Jewish incumbent urged residents to vote “in memory of our God” and “our religion.”
Todd Zenger, a Republican facing Democratic Rep. Patrice Arent, the state legislature’s only Jewish representative, included those words on a campaign flier. It was widely criticized on Sunday by the likes of the United Jewish Federation of Utah and the state’s Republican governor.
Zenger apologized for his “choice of words” in a statement to the Salt Lake Tribune.
“We hope that candidate Zenger means that he supports all our religions, one God, and the American right to choose one’s beliefs,” said Alan Shapiro, the federation’s executive director. “If he does, he should clarify immediately.”
Gov. Gary Herbert wrote in a Twitter post: “Having worked with Patrice Arent over the years, I can say that while we don’t agree on every topic, I have always appreciated her dedication to preserving freedom of religion and conscience. She is a wonderful person who respects others’ points of view.”
Arent, a four-term incumbent, said she was “truly disappointed” with the flier.
“Because it is well known that I am the only Jewish legislator in Utah and very active in my religion, many people in our Jewish community are hurt and upset by Mr. Zenger’s statement,” she said in a statement. “Right now, Jews across the country feel very vulnerable. We should all hope that the lesson of Pittsburgh can be one of respect and acceptance of our differences, much like we have felt as the entire community has wrapped their arms around us over this past week.”
In his apology, Zenger said “It was never my purpose or intent to be insensitive to any person, race or religion, or to malign any religion or race.”